Posts By Katie Venit
Aaron Quesnel has lofty goals for his Vancouver company Sky Harvest, but to reach them he needs to start at ground level.
The ultimate goal for Sky Harvest is a 12,000 square foot rooftop greenhouse that will grow a variety of produce. For now, though, the startup is working staying close to the ground, laying a foundation and making a name for itself.
“Seeing how your food is produced is pretty important,” says Quesnel. “Sky Harvest wants to do that on a large scale, on a rooftop greenhouse with lots of interest and attention.”
It is no surprise that Harold Blackwell launched his venture into commercial agriculture with a sound business plan.
An investment banker by day, Blackwell started gardening outside as a hobby, something to do during his off hours to de-stress from the workday. But he could only take that so far in Connecticut, when outdoor gardening pauses during the winter.
To solve this problem, he began with small pots of herbs grown indoors, and then expanded into a small hydroponics set-up. He was pleasantly surprised at the quality of his results, and after a few years had the fortune to meet a commercial hydroponics grower in Bridgeport who showed him the ways of growing hydroponically at a commercial scale for a living.
“We have a lot of employees,” says Bryan Spangle, co-owner of Organic Solution. Not many businesses only in their third year could make such a boast, but in this case his claim is justified. Organic Solution has millions of employees, all working around the clock to create the product. Those employees just happen to be worms.
Organic Solution came to life when Spangle and George Keossaian went through what Spangle calls a “mid-life crisis thing” and decided to transition from their current careers into “something else that was good.”
Biochar has been around for millions of years, since the first fires burned the first organic materials. Centuries ago, indigenous tribes in Brazil discovered how to produce biochar to enrich the poor rainforest soil called Terra Preta, but the technology was lost for hundreds of years.
Michael Wittman, CEO of Blue Sky Biochar, believes this old technology is a powerful tool for reducing carbon in the atmosphere while increasing agricultural yields.
In 1994, Mickey Lynch was working on a project in Florida to turn waste products from landfills into usable materials. This project brought him into contact with many farmers, including Blake Whisenant, who had recently lost a large tomato crop due to flooding and was developing a raised system to protect the crop and offer more control over the growing environment. The pair began a collaboration that resulted in EarthBox, a container farming system that reduces waste and takes the guesswork out of farming.
Frank DiPaolo, general manager of EarthBox, credits much of the success of the product over the years to its simplicity. Water is reserved at the bottom of the container. Layered over the water is an aeration screen, which prevents root rot and mold, and over that is a peat-based growing media, which draws up the water as it is needed. The EarthBox also works with a fertilizer strip and a mulch cover, which prevents weeds and conserves water. The system requires about a third of the water and half of the fertilizer as in-ground methods, according to DiPaolo.